How Exercise Benefits the Brain (NewYork Times):
“To learn more about how exercise affects the brain, scientists in Ireland recently asked a group of sedentary male college students to take part in a memory test followed by strenuous exercise.
First, the young men watched a rapid-fire lineup of photos with the faces and names of strangers. After a break, they tried to recall the names they had just seen as the photos again zipped across a computer screen. Read the rest of this entry »
Veterans learn to use yoga and meditation exercises to reconnect with their emotions (Wisconsin State Journal):
“Rich Low of Madison served as an infantry officer in the Army in Iraq in 2005 and 2006, leading some 280 combat missions. When he came back from the service, he didn’t think his experience affected him in any major way. He had nightmares, and he startled easily, but he chalked that up to just something veterans live with. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Maria Lando (aka TheMathMom)
(Editor’s Note: every other Friday, starting today, we’ll publish a brain teaser to exercise our brains a bit. Here you have one submitted by new contributor Maria Lando. Enjoy!).
Archimedes made a plenitude of significant scientific discoveries throughout his life. He designed machines capable of lifting attacking ships out of the water as well as mirror arrays capable of focusing sun rays and setting enemy ships on fire. He explained why and how bodies float in the water, helping the king verify that his crown is indeed made out of pure gold. He was fascinated with infinity and found the way of approximating the number Pi as well as counting the number of grains of sand that will fit inside the universe. He died telling a Roman soldier that he is too busy to meet a general as he was contemplating yet another mathematical diagram. His tomb was decorated with his favorite discovery .… What do you think it is?
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By: Alvaro Fernandez
Let us highlight a couple of insightful and brief articles in the New York Times and a very powerful analysis in The New York Review of Books; they provide useful clues about Brain Calisthenics, Bilingual Brains, and Debunking Myths on Mental Illness. Read the rest of this entry »
By: Dr. Pascale Michelon
Laughing feels good. Laughing is indeed good in most cases. A good belly laugh amounts to an aerobic exercise as your blood pressure and heart rate increase, your breathing changes and your diaphragm contracts. Laughing has also been shown to boost the immune system and reduce stress.
Laughing is thus good for your brain! Here are two fun ways to take a further look at laughter and the brain :
- Listen to these laughs and decide whether it is a human or a computer laughing.
- Try this to find out how much you are stressed. You may be surprised…
By: Dr. Pascale Michelon
An article in the Wall Street Journal today, Building a More Resilient Brain, reviews the work of Dr. Bialystok and her colleagues on the benefits that bilingualism brings to the brain. Another great example of neuroplasticity.
… over time, regularly speaking more than one language appears to strengthen skills that boost the brain’s so-called cognitive reserve, a capacity to work even when stressed or damaged. This build-up of cognitive reserve appears to help bilingual people as they age.
… the process of speaking two or more languages appears to enable people to develop skills to better cope with the early symptoms of memory-robbing diseases, including Alzheimer’s. […] the advantages of bilingualism are thought to be related to a brain function known as inhibitory or cognitive control: the ability to stop paying attention to one thing and focus on something else
Comments: What if I only speak one language? Would it be beneficial to start learning one now? Would I need to speak it everyday? Would it help me built reserve? Unfortunately science does not have evidence-based answers to these questions yet… But learning a new language follows the recipe for a good mental exercise as outlined in The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: Variety, Challenge and Novelty.
- Variety: to stimulate multiple functions of the brain.
- Challenge: to avoid routine.
- Novelty: to stimulate parts of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex that are mostly exercised when we learn to master new cognitive challenges.
As such, learning a new language is a great mental exercise. However it cannot be the magic answer to everything. As you know, brain maintenance requires a multi-faceted approach comprising at least a variety of brain stimulation, balanced nutrition, stress management, socialization and physical exercise.
Related post: Mental stimulation: building a Brain/ Cognitive Reserve with novelty, variety and challenge
By: Dr. Pascale Michelon
How often do you listen to the office gossip while filling in forms? Or read a document while talking on the phone with a client? Or think about your problems at work while helping your child with his homework?
We are constantly assaulted by lots of information and often required to perform several tasks at once. It is not easy to stay focused. However being able to stay focused is crucial to achieve success. Indeed, if you are listening to the office gossip while filling in forms, you will probably make mistakes. If you try to read a document while talking on the phone with a client, you will probably sound distant and uninterested to your client and may not get the contract you expected to get. If you think about your problems at work while helping your child with his homework, you will probably miss opportunities to teach her something.
As you may notice all the situations above involve doing more than one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is enemy number one when it comes to accurate and speedy performance.
Human attention is limited. Think about your attentional focus as the beam of a light. If the light is on an object it cannot be on other objects at the same time with the same intensity. Only dim light will be available to light up the objects in the periphery. The same happens in your attentional system. Dividing attention results in less attentional power devoted to all the different tasks that you are trying to do at the same time. The more tasks, the less attention can be devoted to each. The result is more errors and waste of time. Although we all have the feeling that multitasking saves us time, it is often not the case.
Try the exercise below to test your attentional focus. Three words have been combined to make this grid of letters. How many times does each of these words appear…? Can you compare your performance while searching for just one word vs. two of them at the same time?
How many times is the word SUN shown?
How many times is the word BUS shown?
How many times is the word NONE shown?
Solutions: Read the rest of this entry »